10 Best CRMs for Startups in 2023: Ultimate Guide, Reviews & Pricing Comparison
Building a startup is fun and exciting. It's also stressful… Enter: the best CRMs for startups to use for scaling their sales growth in 2023.
There are tons of to-do list items to keep track of, important people to meet with, and valuable deals to close. You probably work long hours at odd times. It's all part of the package.
Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you with task management, improve your workflow, and save you time while you manage the day-to-day of your startup.
One of these tools is a CRM solution.
If you're not familiar with the term, customer relationship management (CRM) software lets startups easily store customer data, oversee their sales processes, and nail their sales forecasting efforts—all inside a single, convenient tool.
The best CRMs are fully customizable, have sales automation capabilities, and include messaging functionality and email templates. Oh, and we can't forget about lead generation, lead scoring, sales pipeline management, and project management tools, too, as well as integrations with the other top apps. But we'll get into the nitty gritty of CRM software later.
For now, just think of CRMs as spreadsheets on steroids. They allow you to track all customer interactions, then actually use this information when the time is right.
Make sense? Cool, now let's figure out the right CRM system for your startup. Keep reading to learn about the pros and cons of 10 different options, as well as their pricing plans.
10 Best CRM Software Solutions for Startups in 2023
There are a lot of CRMs out there…
Free CRMs and all-in-one CRMs. Cloud-based systems and mobile apps. Tools that focus exclusively on contact management and tools that offer a lot more functionality.
The question is, what's the best CRM for you and your startup?
We can't answer that for you. But we can list and review 10 of the top options on the market so that you can make an educated decision for yourself. Let's take a look!
Note: If budget constraints are holding you back from purchasing a CRM, don't worry–our comprehensive guide will walk you through the steps to create your own customized CRM solution, empowering your sales reps with efficient self-management capabilities.
Discover the best CRMs for contractors that can streamline your project management tasks in the building industry.
1. Close CRM
That said, Close CRM is a great choice for most startups. It's cloud-based, easy to use, and has a truckload of features that help sellers close more deals than ever before. That's why thousands of fast-growing brands like NatureBox, FareHarbor, and Toggl use the platform.
Pros of Close CRM:
- Hate steep learning curves? You'll love Close. It's intuitive to use, so you can quickly find the information you need.
- Automate repetitive tasks using our sales automation features.
- Easily manage your contacts and keep track of important tasks—for your entire team.
- Create custom fields and activities and make our CRM platform your own. When you choose Close, you're choosing to personalize your sales process. Win!
- Use the features you need to connect with your ideal buyers, including a one-click Power Dialer (proven to help reps make 300+ calls a day), a powerful sales email suite (complete with automation), and simple SMS capabilities.
- Analyze custom, in-depth reports regarding pipeline and sales funnel health, specific KPIs, and individual rep performance. Then use the data to propel your startup forward.
- Connect Close to all of the apps you already know and love. We offer dozens of native integrations and thousands more via Zapier. Close plays nice with others.
- Close offers free support and migrations to all customers, big or small.
- Close's mobile app means you can keep connected on the go.
Here is what your inbox looks like in the Close mobile app:
Cons of Close CRM:
- We don't offer a free plan. If you're looking for killer features for zero dollars, you'll have to look elsewhere. That said, we do offer a 14-day free trial. Start yours now.
- Close is a sales-focused CRM and integrates with HubSpot. If you need help with outside sales (aka field sales), you may want to consider using a different tool.
Close CRM Pricing: The "Starter" plan starts at $25 a month, billed annually. The "Basic" plan will run you $59 a month, billed annually. The "Professional" plan (our most popular offering) costs $89 a month, billed annually. And the "Business" plan is $129 a month, billed annually.
HubSpot is uber well-known in sales and marketing circles. (Type any sales or marketing-related term into Google and you'll probably find a HubSpot blog post about it.)
They do more than just pump out content, though. They also create tools for marketing, sales, and customer experience teams. Their main tool is a CRM system, which includes contact management, email marketing, and sales automation features, just to name a few.
(Note: for the purposes of this review, we'll focus on HubSpot's sales features exclusively.)
Pros of HubSpot:
- HubSpot CRM gives sales managers and executives a visual overview of sales.
- This CRM solution can be accessed on any device, including a mobile phone.
- Thanks to Zapier, HubSpot integrates with thousands of other tools sales reps use.
- The platform includes appointment scheduling, live chat, and payment features, which reduces the number of additional apps users have to use (and pay for.)
Cons of HubSpot:
- HubSpot isn't super customizable, which may be a problem for certain startups.
- HubSpot's free CRM is extremely limited. Most startups will need to upgrade to a paid plan or an entirely different service as they grow, which can be a hassle.
HubSpot Pricing: HubSpot CRM is free to use. The "Starter" plan starts at $45 a month. The "Professional" plan starts at $450 a month. And the "Enterprise" plan starts at $1,200 a month. As you would expect, the more you pay, the more features you can access.
Check out the main differences between HubSpot and Close.
Salesforce is to CRM what Microsoft is to computers—extremely popular. Why? There are two reasons: first, Salesforce was the first SaaS CRM option on the market. And second, the tool is packed with a bunch of handy features to cover a variety of business needs.
Want to optimize your marketing campaigns? Streamline your sales process? Provide better customer service? Salesforce will help you do all of these things and more.
(Note: for the purposes of this review, we'll focus on Salesforce's sales features exclusively.)
Pros of Salesforce management software:
- Dashboards to track team performance.
- A social feed, which users can use to collaborate with colleagues.
- Automation tools to simplify the sales process and boost productivity.
- Artificial intelligence-based sales forecasting to help make better decisions.
- Multiple "Add-Ons" to get even more value out of the Salesforce platform.
- Tons of integration capabilities to connect Salesforce to your favorite tools.
Cons of Salesforce:
- Salesforce is a beast of a CRM system, which means it isn't super user-friendly. You’ll need a dedicated team member or consultant to help set up and maintain the system.
- The platform isn't the cheapest option and hides a lot of extra fees in add-ons and upgrades. (More on pricing plans below.)
Salesforce Pricing: The "Essentials" plan starts at $25 a month, billed annually, though features at this price point are limited. To access all of Salesforce's features for sales teams, plan to spend $300 a month, billed annually, for access to the "Unlimited" plan.
4. Zoho CRM
Look out Google, Zoho is coming for you!
Seriously, this company has apps for everything. Business email? Check. Powerful analytics? Check. Video conferencing, workplace chat, and file management features? Check, check, check! And we haven't even mentioned the marketing, sales, and customer support tools yet.
Zoho CRM is a strong contender in the fight for CRM supremacy, thanks to the platform's ease of use, combined with a powerful feature set for sales and marketing teams.
Pros of Zoho CRM:
- Zoho CRM is easy to use, which means startups can start using it fast.
- Can be customized to fit your startup's unique needs, whatever they may be.
- Includes sales and marketing automation features to increase accuracy and efficiency.
- Has a data porting feature to easily transfer info from spreadsheets to the CRM.
- Integrates with social media platforms for social selling purposes.
Cons of Zoho CRM:
- Zoho CRM offers a free tier, but it's very limited. Users will need to upgrade eventually.
- While Zoho offers email marketing tools, individual messages can't be tracked.
- Some features are considered "Add-Ons" which can make Zoho CRM quite expensive.
Zoho CRM Pricing: Zoho offers a "Free" plan. After that, pricing ranges from $14 a month, billed annually, to $52 a month, billed annually, depending on the features needed. Prices increase as you tack on add-ons and upgrades.
Learn more about how Zoho compares to Close.
Pipedrive isn't the biggest name in the CRM game, but it's still popular. The company has been able to achieve success by combining an easy-to-use interface with features that actually help salespeople connect with customers and close deals.
One of the biggest pros of Pipedrive is its visual nature. Users can see their entire sales funnel, start to finish, and update their pipelines via drag-and-drop functionality.
Pros of Pipedrive:
- Pipedrive is a flexible tool that different startups can use to achieve success.
- Create multiple pipelines, each with unique stages to match real sales cycles.
- Tap into automation to eliminate data entry and increase individual productivity.
- Use built-in email marketing tools to stay in touch with prospects at all times.
- Monitor team progress via visual dashboards and customizable reports.
Cons of Pipedrive:
- Pipedrive does not offer a free plan. (There is a free 14-day trial, however.)
- Phone support is only available on top-tier plans, so onboarding can be tricky.
- Pipedrive is made for sales. Those looking for a multi-use tool will be disappointed.
Pipedrive Pricing: After a 14-day free trial, Pipedrive pricing starts at $14.90 a month for the "Essentials" plan, $24.90 a month for the "Advanced" plan, $49.90 a month for the "Professional" plan, and $99 a month for the "Enterprise" plan.
Check out the differences between Pipedrive and Close.
Is your startup in the B2B space? Consider an investment in Salesflare. While it may not be suited to larger startups, small to medium-sized brands will love the platform's intuitiveness.
Pros of Salesflare:
- Salesflare connects to your current communication channels. Then it takes the data it acquires from your email inbox, calendar, and mobile phone to update records.
- Automatically create CRM records for people you contact via email signatures and publicly available information. This dramatically reduces data entry tasks.
- Easily organize your sales pipeline with drag-and-drop functionality. Then create and schedule follow-up reminders so a deal never falls through the cracks.
- Integrate with a variety of other tools and platforms, including calendar apps like Google Calendar, email marketing tools like Drip, and Zapier.
Cons of Salesflare:
- Users complain that, while Salesflare is easy to start using, it can be difficult to keep using. Some features require more time to learn than one would expect.
- Salesflare doesn't have many of the features that sellers at fast-growing startups need, such as a built-in dialer or endless customization options.
- Salesflare doesn't offer a free plan. (They do offer a free trial, though.)
Salesflare Pricing: An investment in Salesflare will cost you somewhere between $29 and $99 a month, depending on if you pay annually or month-to-month and the features you need.
7. Agile CRM
Agile CRM has been around for a decade, quietly building a loyal fanbase, thanks to its surprisingly useful free plan and pro-grade advanced features.
Sales, marketing, and service teams can use Agile CRM, though we'll focus exclusively on the CRM solution's sales-oriented features in this review. Fortunately, the tool has a lot to offer in this way—especially for those running startups, as that's its target audience.
Pros of Agile CRM:
- Agile CRM is free for up to 10 users, with a solid set of entry-level features. For example, appointment scheduling and lead scoring are included in the free plan.
- Salespeople can create multiple deal tracks, each with their own unique, customizable milestones, then trigger automatic follow-ups and analyze real-time metrics.
- Upper-tier plans combine a lot of other handy features, including contact management, marketing automation, real-time alerts and reporting, and even social monitoring.
Cons of Agile CRM:
- Agile CRM doesn't excel in the ease of use department. Some users claim that its CRM features are powerful, but cumbersome to use—at least at first.
- For access to all of Agile CRM's features, you'll need to pay a pretty penny. Especially if you have a large sales team.
Agile CRM Pricing: This CRM platform offers a solid free plan. Once you grow beyond it, expect to pay between $8.99 and $47.99 a month, per user, depending on features.
Freshsales, formerly known as Freshworks CRM, aims to "Accelerate your revenue with context-driven sales." What we want to know is, can it deliver on this promise?
The answer is, "Maybe." It really just depends on your startup's needs and preferences. The tool does have cool features, as we'll discuss in the "Pros" section below. But like every other CRM system on this list, it has drawbacks, which may harm the customer experience for you.
Pros of Freshsales:
- Basic CRM features like contact management are easy to use.
- Customer data is a strong point. Users can automatically collect lead information from emails and have it added to their CRM records. Translation: less data entry.
- More than that, the data Freshsales collects includes context, which makes it easier to understand where prospects are in the sales process and score them appropriately.
- Freddy AI, the Freshsales AI-powered assistant, helps users learn from their CRM data, turning random numbers into "insights, predictions, and recommendations."
- Freshsales offers a free plan with basic features, which is always a plus.
Cons of Freshsales:
- Some features, such as sorting and filtering tasks, aren't very user-friendly. If you're looking for an easy-to-use, completely intuitive tool, consider something else.
- As their startup grows, users will need to upgrade from the free plan. Doing so can get expensive depending on which features said users need access to.
Freshsales Pricing: The "Growth" plan costs $15 a month, per user. The "Pro" plan costs $69 a month, per user. And the "Enterprise" plan costs $83 a month, per user.
For an in-depth comparison of Freshsales with other CRM systems, refer to our article on Freshsales alternatives. We analyze the strengths and weaknesses of various tools to help you make an informed decision.
Next up, Keap, which used to be Infusionsoft.
In the beginning, Infusionsoft was known as a pretty high-level email marketing platform. The tool grew. Now it offers CRM features, too. Hence the name change.
With Keap, startups can access a capable CRM system with contact management, sales pipeline, email and text marketing, automation features, and more.
Pros of Keap:
- Keap allows users to import contacts from spreadsheets, other CRM platforms, custom website forms, etc. which makes centralizing customer data easy.
- Automation is a big part of Keap. Users can take advantage of the tool's drag-and-drop functionality to create custom marketing campaigns and streamlined sales processes.
- Because Keap started as an email marketing platform, its email marketing features are quite advanced and include professional templates, A/B testing, and real-time reports.
- Users can build custom forms with Keap and embed them on their websites.
Cons of Keap:
- Keap doesn't offer a free plan. Just a free 14-day trial.
- Keap offers a ton of marketing features. If you're investing in CRM for your sales team, you may not need all of these tools. Unfortunately, you'll still have to pay for them.
Keap Pricing: Keap offers two different plans. The "Pro" plan starts at $149 a month for two users and 1,500 contacts. The "Max" plan starts at $199 a month for three users and 2,500 contacts. (Note: you can save money with an annual plan, but it's still an expensive software.)
Finally, we have ClickUp, a project management, collaboration, and CRM hybrid tool that's become quite popular in recent years. If you're looking for one of those all-in-one CRMs—the kind where you buy one app for your whole business and that's it—ClickUp is a strong option.
Pros of ClickUp:
- ClickUp's "Free Forever" plan is, you guessed it, completely free to use, for all time.
- ClickUp has tools for almost every facet of your business, from sales and marketing to human resources, reducing the number of apps startups need to pay for.
- As far as CRM platforms go, ClickUp allows users to view and organize client accounts in multiple ways: lists, kanban boards, and tables.
- With ClickUp, users can easily visualize data and track KPIs. Use one of the tool's 50+ widgets to create a customizable dashboard that gives you all the info you need.
- Users can integrate ClickUp with a variety of popular tools, including Gmail, LinkedIn, DropBox, Slack, and Zoom. (Note: some of these integrations require Zapier.)
Cons of ClickUp:
- While ClickUp does many things, it doesn't do all of them amazingly well. For example, some users complain that its email marketing templates are lacking.
- ClickUp wasn't designed specifically for sales teams. As such, it doesn't have high-end sales features, like one-click calling, to elevate your sales reps' performance.
ClickUp Pricing: Yearly plans range from $5 to $19 a month, per user. Monthly plans will run you between $9 and $29 a month, per user. The more you pay, the more you get.
CRM Benefits for Startups
After analyzing the best customer relationship management apps for startups, it's fair to ask, "Does my company even need one of these tools?" The answer is no…
A higher power won't strike you down if you don't invest in a CRM solution. That said, you should want to invest in one because there are so many advantages to doing so.
If you're unsure about the potential of a CRM, don't miss the insights into the transformative "CRM benefits" provided in our article.
Psst… Still too early for you to think about investing in a CRM? Check out our free spreadsheet CRM template:
How many leads do you have in your sales pipeline? When was the last time you contacted each of them? Is it time to follow up yet? These are hard questions to answer without a CRM.
Once you invest in a tool like Close, your sales process will become more organized. The result? Better relationships with potential customers and fewer lost deals.
A customizable CRM will keep you up to date with your sales process, too.
Is your sales strategy effective? Are your sales reps reaching their full potential? Should you differentiate the way you allocate your startup's resources or stick with the status quo?
A quality CRM will allow you to create custom sales reports and access the metrics you care about. It will then send you notifications when important information needs to be viewed.
Contrary to popular belief, sales is a team sport.
CRM solutions allow salespeople to share customer information, winning sales techniques, effective cold email templates, and other resources with each other. Doing so empowers each seller to succeed, which can only benefit the small businesses they work for.
"That's what Slack is for," you're thinking. True. But imagine how much more productive your salespeople will be when they don't have to switch between apps to get information. CRM gives sellers all the tools they need in one convenient location.
Organization, transparency, and collaboration are great—but only if they lead to more profit.
Sales teams use CRM platforms because these tools help them keep track of leads, score prospects effectively, shorten sales cycles, close more deals, and project future earnings.
In other words, CRMs enable startups to drive revenue, which they can use to scale faster.
Finally, CRM systems increase the productivity of their users—by, like, a lot.
It makes sense. User-friendly CRMs make it easy to track customer data. When said data is easy to find, deals can be closed at a faster clip. Top-of-the-line CRMs like Close include automation as well, which dramatically reduces the number of manual tasks for sales reps.
And we can't forget about prospect communication. Depending on the CRM you choose, you should be able to communicate with each prospect via their favorite communication channels.
Do they want to talk to your reps on the phone or on Zoom? Would they rather receive an email from your top seller or a text? Good CRMs can accommodate a lead's preferences.
CRM Integrations can boost individual sales rep productivity even more. Basically, you'll never get enough done until you invest in and implement a quality CRM tool.
What to Look For When Choosing the Best CRM for Your Startup Business
To choose the best CRM software for your startup, identify your small business needs.
Trust us, they won't be the same for every company. Startup ABC will want a tool for lead management and customer support purposes. Startup XYZ will want a tool with workflow automation features to help facilitate its sales activities and that's it.
No matter what, though, make sure the CRM solution you choose has the six key features below. (Just FYI, Close has all of these features! Want to skip the reading and just get started?)
Accuracy in Sales Projections
How many sales will your startup make next month? Obviously, no one knows the answer to this question with absolute certainty, and your CRM isn’t a crystal ball. But the CRM you invest in should be equipped with sales forecasting features and be able to give you a pretty good idea based on past performance.
Automation of Tracking Sales
Manually tracking sales takes forever. Don't do it! Choose a CRM solution that has automation capabilities. That way you'll always know where your leads are in your pipeline without your reps having to spend endless hours on menial data entry and tracking tasks.
Reports and Analytics
There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it: the best CRM will have reporting features. Is your sales strategy working? You won't know until you crunch the numbers. Use your CRM of choice to analyze your team's approach to sales to understand how it can improve.
Alignment Within Different Teams
Sales is awesome, but it's not the only department within your startup. Your CRM software will ideally accommodate marketing and customer support teams, too. When all team members are on the same page, regardless of department, business processes will run more smoothly
Management of Contact Data
Communication tools are great. Automation is cool. And integrations are definitely nice to have. But at their heart, customer relationship management tools are about contact data. If a CRM solution you're interested in doesn't include lead management, it's not a CRM.
Ability to Integrate With Other Platforms
We're going to go out on a limb here and guess that CRM isn't the only tool your startup uses. So, when shopping for a CRM platform, make sure it will play nice with the other apps in your tech stack. If it won't, look elsewhere. The CRM will be more hassle than it's worth.
One other thing: the CRM you choose should fit your budget. Always check pricing before falling head over heels for a tool. You don't want to fall in love with an app you can't afford.
Why Startups Love Close
There you go. We've just given you all the information you need to choose a CRM solution for your startup.
Startups and small businesses of all kinds love Close because it's easy to use, has all of the functionality you could ever want (including automation to speed up your team's workflow!), and affordable pricing that will work for just about any company.
We're just going to say it: Close is the best CRM for most startups. But don't take our word for it. Sign up for a free 14-day trial, take the software for a test drive, and decide for yourself.